Thursday’s event was limited to 50 people due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 100 watched on a Facebook live stream. The evening had sound problems from gym acoustics and commenters speaking unclearly through face masks. As the sound improved, officials heard first-hand accounts of police intimidation and fearful experiences, including facilitator Karyn Greer.
The CBS46 anchor commented that Black parents must talk with their children about interactions with the police. After her son was stopped by police in Cobb County, Greer said she told him, “’You need to be respectful and do what the officers tell you because any turn (of your body) can be deadly.”
Johns Creek resident Angie Ayers Jones, a Fulton County deputy registrar, recalled working at a voting booth during the International Festival in 2018 when an officer started a conversation with her and two other women. She said the officer disparaged Black people to the women, who are white, and repeated the phrase “those people” while remarking on his days working in Atlanta.
Jones said the women filed a complaint with Johns Creek Police a couple of days later but the three women were not confident that the incident was investigated because his commanding officer was skeptical of their complaint.
Jones then addressed Johns Creek officials inside the gym. “I can tell you that that officer doesn’t see the people in front of him as individuals,” she said. “He sees them as Black and as white.”
Bodker assured Jones that he would follow-up on the complaint that the women filed.
“If you have concerns that have been raised, please give us an opportunity to address it,” Bodker said to the crowd. “So we can prove to you that we are worthy of the opportunity to fix our own problems.”
Major John Clifton encouraged the citizen advisory board to help build trust in the community. “We want to get a feeling from every group in Johns Creek,” he said, adding that he also recognized the need to hire more police officers of color.
Clifton asked residents to reach out to the police department to help strengthen a connection and offered his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prior to the forum discussion, Johns Creek held private discussion groups in the community including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority members. Johns Creek spokeswoman Edie Damann said the city is open to more public conversation events on race if the citizens want it.